“The Bletchley Girls” by Tessa Dunlop

bletchleygirlsA number of stories have come out of the famous Buckinghamshire mansion called Bletchley, where Britain housed its code-breaking team during World War II. The best-known is that of Alan Turing, a key code-breaker who is widely regarded as a father of the modern computer.

No real account, however, has been given of the work of the girls at Bletchley who, by l944, had outnumbered the men by three to one. Tessa Dunlop tackles this subject in her current book, The Bletchley Girls, and she does so as a qualified historian. She received the Gertrude Easton History prize at Oxford University and has been awarded a PhD scholarship at Sheffield Hallam University.

She picks fourteen women, still alive in their nineties, and gives a detailed account of how they all wound up  in the code-breaking organization. It turns out it was young girls who operated the unwieldy machinery, made sense of wireless sound waves and sorted the decoded messages that would eventually help lead the Allies to victory and the world into the information age. They had all signed the Official Secrets Act, and so for years none really knew what they had done.  Tessa Dunlop tells how Bletchley was dependent on radio interceptions. Scattered across Britain with international outposts as remote as New Delhi and Columbia, Y-stations, big and small,  were the nerve centres of an eavesdropping operation, intercepting the gobbledygook messages to pass on to Bletchley Park. Some 8,500- 10,000 people worked at Bletchley Y-stations. This is a fascinating account of what they achieved.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“The Year of Reading Dangerously” by Andy Miller

yearreadingdangerouslyThis is a book by a man who is an author himself, has worked in a bookstore selling books and now edits them and writes reviews.

Andy Miller is 37  years old and lives outside London with his wife and young son. You get the impression that books fill his life almost entirely. He calls The Year of Reading Dangerously a work of literary criticism but adds it is also a memoir and a confession. He had come to the point in his life where he felt he must tackle a list of the most famous books in the world. He calls this The Hundred Books which influenced me most. But the book he writes is based on The List of Betterment and these are the fifty books he describes here.

He puts two or three books together for each chapter, sometimes a funny combination,  e.g. Hilary Mantel, George and Weedon Grossmith, and Charles Dickens…or Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code)  or Leo Tolstoy and P.G. Wodehouse.

He is frank and funny about his own tastes and it makes for an amusing and original book and a new slant on the authors he writes about.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

Closed Friday afternoon!

We will be closed from 1pm onwards on Friday to attend Peter’s funeral service.

There will be a celebration of Peter’s life at Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Avenue, on Friday, June 19, 2015. There will be a visitation from 2 p.m. followed by a celebration of life at 3 p.m. and a reception afterward. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Leading Note Foundation or the charity of your choice.

Peter Dawson – one of our co-owners – passed away recently

PeterIt is with deep sadness and regret that we announce the death of Peter Dawson, on 12 June 2015, following a sudden illness. Peter was instrumental, along with co-owners Brian and George, in saving the Books on Beechwood store when it was about to be closed in December 2012. When the possibility of taking over the bookstore came up, Peter mused that it had been one of his dreams to run a bookstore when he retired. This was a dream that becane reality as Peter always enjoyed new challenges! Peter set out to learn about the book industry and he became actively involved in learning the ins-and-out of running a bookstore – from attending book fairs and dealing with publishers to cleaning carpets and ordering supplies. Over the last two years, Peter kept searching for new ways to expand the bookstore’s reach with increased advertising and presence in the community. As an example, Peter revived the Books on Beechwood tradition of bringing in authors for a dinner followed by a speech, first at the Clocktower Brew Pub and then, more recently, at Table 40 operated by Fraser Café.
Peter’s love of books and reading was one of the reasons he was passionate about the bookstore. Peter joked that he was the store’s best customer – he was a voracious but discriminating reader sometimes enjoying a book a day on his vacations!
Peter had not actually retired when he helped take over the bookstore in 2013, he was still active as Chairman of Iridian Spectral Technologies, a high-tech company that he helped found in 1998.  Peter would spend most days either at the bookstore, Iridian or both as the occasion required. Prior to that Peter enjoyed a long career at the National Research Council of Canada where he was first a research scientist and then eventually became the Director-General at the Institute for Microstructural Sciences.
Peter had a loving family with his wife of more than fifty years, Marilyn; two daughters, Jennifer and Kathryn; and their families, including husbands Rob and David and three grand-daughters, Anna, Erin and Sarah (also a part-time Books on Beechwood volunteer on occasion!).
Peter will be dearly missed by all the staff at Books on Beechwood including Antoinette, Bonnie, Bridget, David, Di, Hilary, Jill, Margaret and Stephanie and also by all the staff and his friends at Iridian. Brian Sullivan and George Laframboise will especially treasure their long friendship with Peter over the years, first at the NRC and then at Iridian and Books on Beechwood.
We will all miss Peter’s wisdom, wit and guidance.

There will be a celebration of Peter’s life at Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Avenue, on Friday, June 19, 2015. There will be a visitation from 2 p.m. followed by a celebration of life at 3 p.m. and a reception afterward. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Leading Note Foundation or the charity of your choice.

Beechwood Solstice Evening

Join us on Saturday, June 20 for this year’s Beechwood Solstice Evening. In addition to food, drink, and fun activities for children and adults happening around St. Charles Church, some Beechwood businesses up and down the street will be open late to take part in the festivities.

We will be open from 7:00 to 9:00pm that night, with lots of fun promotions and discounts available.

At 7:30pm, local author Kaeli Van Regan will be here to read from her new children’s book, Peacity Stories for Relaxation.

We look forward to seeing you all here!solstice2015

“Montcalm and Wolfe” by Roch Carrier

montcalmwolfeJames Wolfe and Louis-Joseph Montcalm both came from families who for centuries had served in their country’s armies: the Wolfes in Wales, Ireland and finally England; the Montcalms in France. When these two men faced each other on the Plains of Abraham, they had a lot riding on the outcome.

In this book, Roch Carrier gives us careful background details of the events leading up to the famous day in September l759. The Seven Years War had seen fighting between the French and English including Wolfe’s success in taking Louisburg. The question was how to take Quebec City. For some time the Governor General Vaudreuil, who was in charge of the troops in Quebec, had not got along with the commander from the troops sent from France, Louis-Joseph Montcalm. In the most exciting part of this book, Carrier describes Wolfe’s decision to scale the tall cliff overlooking a farmer’s field owned by Abraham Martin and allow the rest of the British army to climb the cliff behind and attack the French troops under Montcalm who was not prepared for these tactics.

Carrier describes the two warriors: Wolfe very tall and skinny and often ill, especially from sea-sickness, attached to his mother for remedies; Montcalm steadier, with a family waiting for him in France. Carrier himself is one of Canada’s finest writers as novelist, playwright and children’s author. He is also the former director of the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Librarian of Canada. The translator, Donald Winkler, has won the Governor General’s Award for French to English Translation three times. In this book, they have a winner.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“Letters to my Grandchildren” by David Suzuki

lettersgrandchildrenDavid Suzuki is an internationally famous geneticist and environmentalist with some forty books, and numerous prizes, to his name.

In this book he takes quite a different line and writes letters to his two sets of grandchildren that are warm and touching in the memories he shares. His family (grandparents) came from Japan between 1904 and 1908 and settled in Vancouver. They had left extreme poverty and were making a living in B.C. until World War ll broke out and the government incarcerated all Japanese for the duration. One set of grandparents returned to Japan after the war only to die within the year in Hiroshima. David Suzuki made it, however. He showed keen interest in all his academic studies with his marks enabling him to study medicine. By this time he had fallen in love with genetics and he would pursue this, along with a passion for the environment, that has made him world-famous.

In these letters he writes to two sets of grandchildren. When his first wife died, he married into a Haida First Nations family. He met “elders” for the first time and then became an elder himself, of which he is very proud and writes of the importance for families to keep close and share their wisdom. He urges his grandchildren to find their goals and stick to them. He calls them the legacy of which he is most proud and happy. It is altogether a charming book.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall